A string quartet receives four Strads to play

The Kuss Quartet have been loaned four Paganini Stradivarius instruments by the Nippon Foundation to play the complete Beethoven Cycle in Tokyo, at Suntory Hall and for a recording.

On May 27 they will try out the instruments at Wigmore for a 1pm BBC concert.

Violist Will Coleman tells Slipped Disc: ‘It’s totally thrilling – the sound makes you see totally new possibilities – new thought and colour.

‘Haunting, ghost-like sounds float out, and then a moment later the most human, from-the-stomach, depth of sound.

‘Nonetheless they’re divas as well, and tell you where to get off if they don’t like something you’re doing – they simply clam-up and don’t sing!’

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  • ‘The sound possibilities explode certain areas of your brain…’

    No, thanks.

    (Dear Will,
    Please don’t say anything more, just play.)

  • Some details about the instruments would be welcome (by at least some of us). Are these the four instruments once gathered together to be played by the great “Paganini Quartet” (Henri Temianka’s quartet), instruments which I saw years ago in Washington DC? If so evidently the museum sold them or had just been lent them.

    PS Perhaps the violist meant sound possibilities that “explore” areas of the brain. Playing a great instrument certainly does that, and more.

    • One of my all time favourite books is Temianka’s ‘Facing The Music where he describes the re-assembly of this amazing Quartet of instruments. I would love to have heard them live but, alas, bit before my time.

    • Yes, this is the same set once owned by the Corcoran Gallery and played not just by the Paganini Quartet, but also the Cleveland and Tokyo quartets. The Corcoran sold the set to the Nippon Music Foundation (not the Nippon Foundation) in 1994.

      The viola in the set was the one that inspired Paganini to ask Berlioz to compose “Harold in Italy” though he never performed the work.

  • Adolf Busch used to borrow the viola from the Mendelssohn family when he needed to play Harold in Italy – which he performed with conductors as eminent as his brother Fritz, Felix Weingartner, Karl Muck and Bruno Walter.

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